Selling a Crooked House on a Crooked Street

The title sounds nice, but the real point is in selling something different.  Sales always comes down to price, scarcity of the product andimage demand for the product.  Selling cookie cutter homes is difficult.   A crooked or unique location, is far easier to sell, if that quality is still desirable.

I found this structure a few years ago, when looking at a property for a potential client.   It isn’t much, but I was drawn to the vertical boards and, in an odd way, thought it was an almost attractive deterioration.   The more I thought about it, I realized I everyone is drawn to texture and differences.  As long as the design falls inside a marketable range, unique is easier to sell.


SPAM Real Estate Mailings….Don’t do it!

Ticks and Spam…not good!

I’ve been writing about real estate, social media and my hometown, for more than 10 years.  In that time, I’ve learned a little about networking and made my share of mistakes.   Occasionally, I see someone absolutely determined to repeat mistakes.    No names are being used, but I hope to point out how annoying it is to harass your entire address book with unsolicited email, no matter how much you might want the business.  Anyway, an agent, living out of the area, is suddenly sending email solicitations to me every other day.    Instead of blocking the SPAM, I thought I’d try to understand the logic or lack of logic in sending out completely unsolicited and pointless e-mail.  We just came back from a trip to an area in tick season.   Spam reminds me of the ticks on our vacation.

One early email was an inquiry.  It makes some sense, if it isn’t going to a broker and, at first glance, it wasn’t terrible.  Other than being a list of the steps in selling, it was bland, but closed by implying every other agent just “sticks a sign” in the yard.  I’m left wondering how many other agents seeing this email, are feeling a bit annoyed after reading.  A few minutes later, “SPAM Email #2”  came through.  This email, obviously not a fit for me, says so much has changed in this industry over the last few years, I really should consider their website for all real estate searches.  In the last few days, four more emails arrived from the same agent.  Each email is targeting a different kind of client and I obviously don’t want the “valuable information”.

I’m laughing a little at the emails, but,  in my opinion as a broker, clients should “NEVER USE AN AGENT’S PERSONAL WEBSITE” for listing searches.   National sites like ,, actually provide unique and valuable information.  Can I provide more if you call?  Always!  I have access to paid subscriptions and can generate values or see listings in ways a non-subscriber couldn’t access.   There just isn’t much point in directing a client to a separate site, unless the broker/agent wants to capture your name and contact information.  Client time is better spent on one of the national portals or creating a true targeted alert.    Are the individual agent or office portals valuable?  Yes, if no other resources existed online.    Saved searches and notifications from MLS are worth using.   These are often faster than the national portals and usually provide more property detail as well as an early alert advantage over competing buyers.

Contrast in Coastal Communities and Beaches Really Matter!   

Maine Beach

My wife grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and we try to stay in touch with old friends.  We came back from a visit a few days ago and the contrast was educational.    I feel lucky to see a different landscape and

Amelia Island 13 Miles of Beach

historic town older than Fernandina, along with the changes you see with development.    Some pieces look very familiar and some solutions are “interesting”.    Traffic circles are much more common in New Hampshire.   Everyone doesn’t know how to use them and I appreciated, for once, the traffic circles here on the island.    Signs were interesting and much more diverse in the historic downtown.  The area appeared unusually vibrant and some of the solutions might make their way to Amelia.   Parking meters were installed, but only one common meter in each lot or block.  Each sold a block of time with payment by credit card and a ticket is printed to leave on your dash.  I don’t know when or if we’ll install meters, but this was a less intrusive and visually neutral solution.   There were also several large parking structures.  they were conveniently located and seemed to be very easy to use.    Again, tickets and a credit card on the way out worked very smoothly.   I’m not sure we have the population to make this work and the size of the parking structure was….well, it was huge!

May or June #AmeliaIsland and the water is around 80 degrees.

Maine….clear water, but still cold, by Florida standards, in July!

The biggest contrast, by far, was in beach access and quality.  A typical beach here is far, far more accessible.   Some areas were rocky, some were either private or nearly inaccessible without a long hike.   With 13 miles of beach and numerous access points, someone from the New England area would be as impressed by our beach as I was with the view in York.   The water appeared to be in the 60’s in July, as much as 20 degrees below our summertime temperature.     Our normal temperature is in the 80’s, with low 60’s or high 50’s only in the middle of winter.

Clam Strips and Haddock at Bob’s

Lobster Rolls at McDonalds!

I’ll admit something.  The seafood was better in New England….a lot better!   Fresh caught generally meant really fresh.   I love lobster rolls.  Believe it or not, even McDonalds sold lobster.    Our beaches were better…much better.  As much as I love scenery, clear water and cliffs, the beaches were very different.  Our easy public access, great water temperature and lack of crowds is something you just don’t see in many places.

Seller’s Market, More or Less

If you look at Nassau County sales, the number of sales and days to sell says a lot. Moving higher in price range, the days on market go up and the volume of sales moves down.

If you compare levels of available inventory, at different price points, the Seller’s Market has a definite sweet spot.

?Thinking, Adapting and Nets

Do you spend time thinking about your network?  DSC01129Sometimes changes in the way we live are just a part of day to day life and some involve finding a different way to reach clients.  Many years ago,  I can remember thinking I’d never use text messages. I didn’t understand how much text would become a part of my life.  Do you remember “MySpace”?  I can remember thinking most social media was either juvenile or meant for people trying to find a “companion”.  I gradually adapted and, oddly, I resisted the changes more when I was young.

Today, even Emoticons are a big part of text and posts on social media and social media is so much a part of our lives, most of us wouldn’t stay in touch with our friends without it.   I’m sure, if you’re reading this much, you noticed the ? in the title of this post.   When thinking of a title for the blog post, I found myself thinking of….well,  an emoticon to show “thinking” or “thoughts”.  Social media has become so much a part of our lives, half of us might be thinking in terms of ?,❤,?,? or ? reactions.   Social media is a big part of my day and the current news coverage of politics underscores the way communication is evolving.   Adding some of my followers or reach online, I’m in the smmneighborhood of a combined 10,000 follower number.    Understanding the value I see personally, an exposure ranging in the millions rivals a television network…bringing an entirely new strategy to online reach through engagement.   I’ll end with this thought. Marketing is all about adapting.  Social media is just communication and everyone in sales should be able to embrace change.

60/40 and More…Spec Homes…How many are too many?

Building homes in 2017 is generally profitable, but I can see issues with a slowdown.  Back in 2007, new construction permits ended in a way I can only describe as abrupt. No, I’m not forecasting a second real estate crash, but there are common sense rules for most builders.  If a production builder, how many spec homes can you plan, when compared to pre-sales?   One local developer quoted 40% as their current preferred spec percentage.   The choices range from 100% pre-sale to nearly 100% spec inventory, with sales often happening prior to breaking ground.   Risk rises as you see inventory built and land purchased prior to a sale.  Earlier today, I read an email from a local builder with over $50,000 in reductions for an area, believe it or not in this market, selling too slowly.  Inventory means money is unavailable to use in the next project and even a developer/builder feels the pressure to negotiate, if existing inventory moves up.

Incentives and competition with a competitive commission rate is on the rise.   I’m speaking for my own office and negotiating commissions with owners or making a sale work for some buyers.   When would I be willing to talk about an incentive for a buyer or owner?  Before signing listing with an owner, it makes sense for me to base a rate on marketability, size of the transaction, effort required and cost to market.   I’m competitive and try to offer rates I feel match my effort and allow me to pay a competitive share to another agent/broker.

Buying New Construction?   Most production builders want agents to bring buyers and the quoted price is the same with or without a real estate agent.   It is perfectly legal for a broker to help with options, closing costs or price reduction, as long as all parties are aware, including the lender, and as long as the assistance benefits one of the parties to the transaction.   On top of builder incentives, I added approximately $3500 in broker incentives to a recent new home sale.   My only requirements…take the time to pre-qualify with a lender prior to shopping for a home and work with me if buying through an agent in this area.

Consult an attorney, but choose carefully.  On a recent title issue, I called more than one attorney, because I didn’t care for the first answer.   Learning more by paying for their time, I knew a fair bit about my chances by the time I encountered one willing to tell me, half informed in front of a home, exactly what I wanted to hear.   Attorneys won’t always tell you what  you want to hear, but there are some willing to take any case.    Go in with an open mind

By the way, Never buy a foreclosure without an attorney’s formal review of the title.   Last year, I picked up a property with a hidden issue.   Too good to be true and with limited time, I skipped this one important step.  The first mistake in 35 years isn’t bad, but I could have avoided the expense with an attorney.   I won’t go into detail, but good legal advice is the least expensive part of a real estate transaction!




Measure a Town by the Streets

Tire-sized cavity under the surface…

I want to compliment the Maintenance Department for the City of Fernandina Beach.    I spend a lot of time driving around town and usually call if I see something like the pothole below.   At an intersection, on a Friday at 3:30PM, this looked like something in need of repair before a weekend.

After talking with Kathy Sabatini, at the roads and streets maintenance number, I happened to drive past the same intersection a little less than 1 1/2 hours later.   Good job!

Small town maintenance departments often run at a deficit.  Just keeping up with paving roads can be a challenge, not to mention budgeting for sustainable maintenance.   Rex Lester, Jeremiah Glissen, Kathy Sabatini and the entire maintenance department deserve recognition.    They obviously care about Fernandina, have pride in providing excellent service and to see this corrected in less than 90 minutes on a Friday afternoon….   I can only say THANK YOU!

Lime and 14th Liberty Development Project…What We Should Know!

Source: PAB City of FB

Development can be a difficult business, but the general public is often unaware of steps required in using land and efforts by developers to use land, while protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Fernandina Beach is blessed with a surplus of protected land, including parks, beachfront, marshes, waterways, recreational zoned areas and, yes, jurisdictional wetland. The common perception of wetland is of land with standing water or a bird at the edge of Egan’s Creek.


Pines Line 14th Street

In developing Lime and 14th, Liberty Development took time to find a better solution and considered what was more sensitive to the community, when he could have chosen to avoid the very political process.  If you look at the property, you can see the raised areas of roadway near the property…essentially trapping additional water and nearby development, forcing added burden on the property. At elevations of 12′ to 19′, according to the Nassau County GIS system, the land isn’t particularly low, but drainage does move across properties during a storm and all wetlands aren’t at low elevation. By the way, the 12′ elevation is in a ditch, running through the property along an unopened easement.

Nassau County GIS Mapping

The problem I have with criticizing development of this property is in seeing it as a pristine, untouched parcel, when it has been negatively impacted by surrounding roads, wetland and drainage. Key points below cover some of the information provided in a Planning and Advisory Board document and in the upcoming required information posted by the USACE. The developer made exceptional effort to propose a development with less impact, even though he could have easily filled the site before annexation, based on SJRWMD and Nassau County requirements. Liberty Development and Spurgeon Richardson deserve credit for taking the time to look for community input, bringing much needed market rate housing and taking the time to minimize wetland impacts.  If you look below, the applicant is also purchasing valuable mitigation land to offset the impact to this site.

City of Fernandina Beach Staff has issued a recommendation of approval. The Planning Advisory Board considered the requested Voluntary Annexation at its Regular Meeting on September 14, 2016, and issued a recommendation of approval. On October 18, 2016, the City Commission approved this Ordinance at First Reading. Source: FBFL.US PAB Summary and Introduction 6/20/17

AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION: – The applicant obtained authorization from the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD Permit 143031-1) to eliminate the entire on site wetland area (totaling 12.75 acres). However, the applicant conducted a financial analysis and determined that the project could be economically viable with a net 224 multi-family units. In consideration of that analysis, the applicant revised the project design to eliminate a portion of the work affecting the on site wetland. In consideration of the design revisions, the applicant purports that the project avoids and minimizes work affecting the wetland to the maximum extent practicable. COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: – The applicant submitted a Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure (WRAP) quantifying and qualifying the wetland functions and services that would be eliminated by the work proposed. In consideration of that WRAP, as compensatory mitigation, the applicant would purchase 4.85 Federal palustrine forested credits from the Longleaf Mitigation Bank. ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the project would have no effect on Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) or its designated critical habitat.PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean fill material over a total of 9.7 acres of wetlands to facilitate the establishment of a mixed-use development, which would include associated infrastructure, parking, amenities, and storm water management.  Source: 6/20/17 US Army Corps of Engineers

On a final note, I was the acting Mayor of the City of Fernandina Beach,  when this project was first proposed.  While I was not a part of the final approvals, I felt it was my responsibility to consider every project carefully.   This developer deserves praise.  He sought local consensus from the community.   Given the final product, the project is something the community should be proud of in this location. Not only did he go to great lengths to preserve wetland, he showed restraint in moving through a process….looking for a more accepted product.  He actually held permits to move forward with clearing/mitigation, without annexation and the established procedure, in conflicting jurisdiction rules, defaults to a St. John’s River Water Management ruling.  In other words, the developer went above and beyond the steps required.

Ditch with Trash in the Center of Property

Dirt road through center of property….at edge of ditch.


Wiccademous, Pirate’s Treasure and Hurricanes….Marijuanna Smugglers, Giant Snakes, Bears, Hauntings, Hidden Springs, Commissioners with Pet Alligators, Various and Sundry Rumors of Foul-Play…

“A little nonsense now and then….” 

Amelia Island has its share of legends.  After all, we were home to famous pirates, like Louis Aury and “entrepreneurs” often revered, but little better than legal pirates.  With


Shrimper or ?

the oldest saloon in Florida, parts of town with a history of smuggling and streets named for questionable businesses, you’d think Fernandina residents would enjoy the stories.  We still have those more interested in finding a reason a story can’t be true, than in enjoying the local color.
Bring a sense of adventure and enjoy the island and it’s stories.  We have a rich history and you’ll collect or make a few of your own.   Don’t spend too much time looking for the reasons to call the old stories a hoax.  Think about MaVynee Betsch.   If someone described her to you, and you didn’t know the history of the island, would you believe?  How about the exploding boatload of marijuana in the 70’s?  The entire North Beach was covered and for days, the police department tried to stop


Cuban Tree Frog

people, driving from hours away, from picking up garbage bags of contraband.   Lynyrd Skynyrd played locally for a sherif’s race and one of the high school teachers was a family member.   A city commissioner once dumped a truckload of manure on the courthouse steps or maybe it was City Hall..  Another man held himself at gunpoint over a land dispute…in front of the post office.    A local bartender at the oldest bar in Florida was elected as Mayor.    Giant Cuban Treefrogs are now on Amelia Island.   Which stories are true or are they all true?

Years ago, I came across a 10′ plus diamondback rattler near the old public dump on the island.  I could only measure the snake by the roadway it lay across.  With a head over one edge and the tail over the other, it must have been one of the biggest rattlers ever witnessed.  At 10 or 11 years old, with my dog and no witnesses, I can’t prove any of it. Proximity to an old dump, nearness to warmer tidal water from a creek and proximity to unlimited food, led me to believe the snake grew for a reason.

Around the same time, I saw a very large woodpecker with a light-colored beak.  Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were considered extinct at the time but, debate over existence aside, I know what I saw.  As a kid, I didn’t know woodpeckers were supposed to be rare or extinct.  I only knew it looked bigger than a pileated and the beak was light.

I’m going around my elbow to make a point.  Some stories may be true and some may be tall tales, but enjoying the truth and rich fiction or fact is much more fun than trying to debunk every interesting bit of local color.


Hurricane Dora in 1964?

My family lives on land near the subject of the Wiccademous story.  At one time, our land was owned by a gypsy/fortune-teller(?) woman and later, someone with a houseful of dogs .  He threw so many liquor bottles into the attic and the woods, I found bottles by the hundreds, in the nearby swamp.  Anyway, every few months, someone comes through the property with a story about the Wiccademous

and a camera or video recorder.   The first time, I pointed them down the street…not much fun.  By the fourth or fifth group, I started to ask if they were looking for the legendary owner of our land 75-100 years ago?  We have the largest oaks in the area and it is much more fun to send a group to the big oak at the rear of the property, than it would be to ruin the fun!   Besides, the stories might be true!

Glenwood Deep Water Point…Price Reduction

Looking for deep water?   Does 1800 feet of frontage sound interesting?   Minutes to Amelia Island and a short boat trip to Downtown Fernandina, this is a singularity unique homesite.  Existing caretaker cottage and accessible,  read more……click the link here.   22+ acres and substantial price reduction!

Glenwood Point

Glenwood Point